Jonathan Caine has never really been separated from the Conservative Party for too long a period. His spell at Bell Pottinger was short-lived – now he’s to return to CCHQ to become Owen Paterson’s “Chief of Staff”. It’s a role he will be well used to. He performed similar roles for previous Conservative NI spokesmen in the past – even prior to the local Conservatives being recognised.
Jonathan was always luke-warm, at best, about the local Conservatives’ attempts to organise and contest elections in Northern Ireland. At heart he’s more of an Ulster Unionist. He has been very keen on the UCUNF project and during the early days of negotiation between the Conservatives here, and the UUP, his Bell Pottinger email address would mysteriously appear on the cc list of peeps on the Conservative side.
Owen Polley over on Three Thousand Versts welcomes the return of Caine. However, I’m not so sure. His empathy tends in the direction of the UUP and its reintegration with the Conservative Party. He has never seemed overly convinced of the equal citizenship argument – that only the replacement of the politics of the tribe will result in the fundamental change required in Northern Ireland politics.
In short, the problem with Jonathan Caine lies in his being, according to Owen Paterson, “one of the foremost experts on Northern Ireland politics”. One could argue that an expert in Northern Ireland’s politics is the last thing Owen Paterson or Northern Ireland needs.
Perhaps his “expert” status allows him to ajudge Northern Ireland’s politics as the stunted politics of the swamp. However, unfortunately, I’m of the view that Caine’s life-long hobby is Northern Ireland politics. He knows the characters, the nuances, the local flavours. He’s like a Warhammer character collector.
That is part of the problem. There are enough experts on Northern Ireland politics here already and the hobby is, ultimately, pointless.
However, I’m prepared to give Jonathan the benefit of the doubt – for now.